Innocence and Forensics Conference Draws Crowd
Web Editor - Published: September 30, 2009
forensics1Speaking about DNA exoneree Daryl Hunt at the Innocence and Forensics conference held on Widener Law’s Delaware campus on Friday, September 25th, Dr. John Mendez, Senior Minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church and a Board Member of the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, said,  “He feels like it is his mission to exonerate those who are wrongly accused.”

Attendees filled the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom to capacity for the daylong CLE program put together by Professor John F. Nivala and Associate Professor Jules Epstein and presented by the Taishoff Advocacy, Technology and Public Service Institute.

The program opened with a look at the case of North Carolina DNA exoneree Darryl Hunt, who was scheduled to speak but unfortunately had to cancel. Pam Peoples-Joyner, Executive Director of the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Dr. Mendez did, however, appear, and Dr. Mendez gave a rousing talk about the struggle Darryl went through after he was wrongly convicted of the 1984 rape and murder of newspaper copy editor Deborah Sykes in Winston-Salem despite a lack of credible physical evidence linking him to the crime. Despite the fact that DNA evidence cleared Hunt of the rape in 1994, he was not released until 2004 when another man confessed to the crime after being linked by DNA evidence. Dr. Mendez closed his remarks by saying, “We have to deal with the issue of poverty, and we have to deal with the issue of education.”

The morning session concluded with Professor Jay A. Siegel, IUPUI Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology Chair and Director of Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program, discussing the National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensics. After a luncheon in the Barrister’s club, the afternoon featured a panel entitled “The Psychology, Law, and Ethics of Eyewitness Identification Cases” with John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York Associate Professor Jennifer E. Dysart, Associate Professor Epstein, and Marissa Boyers Bluestine, Legal Director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

The successful conference concluded with a presentation on “Forensic DNA” by Anjali R. Swienton, President & CEO of SciLaw Forensics, Ltd. in Germantown, Maryland and Director of Outreach for the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law.